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What is a stronghold in the Bible?

Originally posted on September 8, 2023 @ 10:00 am

Christianity is not a walk in the park. It requires great effort and commitment for us to stay on track and reach our God-given potential. In our spiritual journey, we often encounter roadblocks and barriers that hinder our growth and progress. In this insightful article, we will delve into; the definition of a stronghold from the bible, examples of strongholds, bible verses about strongholds, strongholds of the mind and many more. Prepare to dive into a transformative journey and unlock the power to break free and live victoriously in Christ. 

You can also use the table of contents to jump to the section that most interests you.

What is a stronghold?

Strongholds are anything that has a firm grip on an individual. 

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Strongholds were physical fortifications in ancient times. They were built strategically for defence and often serve as a refuge during conflicts and war. The essence of building a stronghold in ancient times was to prevent invasion by the enemy. An in-depth study of the bible shows that strongholds are not confined to the physical walls; strongholds can be spiritual and mental.

Examples of Physical Strongholds in the Bible

The term “stronghold” is used in the Bible to convey the ideas of physical security, divine protection, spiritual warfare, and mental barriers. Its specific meaning in a passage depends on the context in which it is used.

The Israelites and the wall of Jericho
Image Credit: Free Bible Images

  1. Jericho: The wall of Jericho is one of the famous strongholds in the bible. It was mentioned in the book of Joshua, and the bible recorded that it was a powerful fortress that seemed impenetrable. The children of Israel marched around the wall for seven days; on the seventh day, the wall fell by a shout, and the Israelites captured the city. (Joshua 6)
  2. Cave of Adullam: When David was running from Saul, the cave of Adullam was one of the places where he took refuge from the enemy. The cave of Adullam served as a stronghold for him and his men. 1 Samuel 22.
  3. Masada: Although Masada isn’t mentioned in the Bible, the historical fortress of Masada is significant in Jewish history. It was a mountaintop fortress in ancient Judea and served as a stronghold against the Roman Empire during the Jewish-Roman War. (learn more about Masada)

What is a spiritual stronghold?

Spiritual strongholds refer to a fortress built by an individual for their safety or it can also be a barrier built by the enemy to keep an individual from achieving their God-given potential. When it comes to a spiritual stronghold, it has two dimensions to it because the bible references that even God is our fortress; which makes God our spiritual stronghold. Spiritual strongholds can either be positive or negative. 

Positive Strongholds

Strongholds can have a positive side which can represent a firm and strong foundation of faith and trust in God. Jesus constantly reminds us of the importance of our faith and trust in God (John 11:40). We secured if we believe and trust God’s ability to do whatever he tells us and we also have the faith that whatever we believe we can receive.

God is our ultimate Stronghold

Several scriptures in the bible refer to God as our fortress which invariably means that God is our stronghold. God calls us to come to him and find refuge in him. He wants us to understand that we can find peace and freedom in him. Our life is hidden in Christ, and God (Colosians 3:3) meaning we triumph above every force of the enemy. Always remember that in times of trouble and uncertainty, God reserves a place of safety and protection, a stronghold we can retreat into.  

Negative Strongholds

Negative strongholds are strongholds of the enemy (1 Corinthians 10:3). They are built by the devil to trap us, contain us and prevent us from reaching our God-given potential. 

Negative strongholds are sometimes built by an individual unintentionally and this kind of stronghold is more difficult to break down. 

Examples of Spiritual Strongholds

  1. Idolatry: Throughout the Old Testament, God constantly rebuked the Israelites every time they fell into idolatry. In modern times, idolatry is not only worshipping idols; it includes valuing anything more than God. For example, if you value money more than God then money is your idol.
  2. Pride: Pride goes beyond fall. Anyone who is proud cannot access God neither can they submit totally to God. Pride is a stronghold that prevents us from receiving from God.
  3. Legalism: Legalism is a spiritual stronghold that is focused on following religious rules and regulations without subjecting it to the leading of the spirit. Matthew 23:1-36
  4. Greed and materialism: Greed is an obsessive desire for anything. Greed prevents us from focusing on God. Matthew 6:24, Luke 12:15
  5. Self-righteousness: I was once captured in a self-righteousness stronghold and I can say; it was a terrible experience. Self-righteousness makes one believe you are the only one serving God wholeheartedly. God opened my eyes to realise that I am not righteous. My righteousness is gotten from the blood of Jesus who bought me and made me to be in right standing with God. (Luke 18:9-14)

Mental strongholds or strongholds of the mind

In my experience, the most difficult stronghold to break one that is formed in the mind. Our minds are very powerful; the mind is a fertile ground on which everything planted grows fast and bears fruit. The more we think about something in our mind, the more it grows and gains ground. 

We have to continuously break down every imagination that exalts itself above God (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). These thoughts and imaginations are very harmful and they can destroy our faith and hinder our relationship with God.  

A common stronghold that is frequently overlooked is denominational strongholds or religious strongholds. These are strongholds influenced by our religious beliefs and practices. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the Sadducees because of this stronghold. Unfortunately, many believers are still in this category. Our denomination or spiritual belief should not prevent us from opening our hearts to God and experiencing his move. 

What are stronghold of the mind, mental stronghold
Image Credit: Pixabay

Examples of Mental Strongholds

There are many examples of mental strongholds. Some examples of stronghold of the mind include; fear and anxiety, sinful beliefs and behaviours, unbelief and doubt, addictions, bitterness and unforgiveness. 

  • Fear and anxiety: fear is an enemy of a believer. The Bible contains several scriptures where God continually assures us he is with us. According to bible scholars, the phrase “fear not” was used in the scriptures 366 times which means God daily assures us to be confident and never be anxious about the future. Fear is a wall created in our minds to prevent us from achieving our goals. I say to you FEAR NOT (2 Timothy 1:17)
  • Sinful beliefs and behaviours: We are in a time and age where Christians find it difficult to embrace the totality of the scripture. We want to be Christians and also hold on to our sinful beliefs and way of life. 
  • Unbelief and doubt: Unbelief is a negative energy that prevents us from fully experiencing God’s goodness. I remember struggling with unbelief; I was always anxious and had a plan B in case God’s plan didn’t work. God was merciful to me some of those times, things usually went according to his plan and my eyes opened. I realised that I was afraid and doubted God’s ability to fulfil his word, I repented and now I have so much faith in God.
  • Addictions: Addictions are terrible; they prevent the mind from functioning properly. People who have one form of addiction or the other find it difficult to concentrate on God. Addictions can lead to depression or worse, suicide. There are various forms of addictions which include drug addictions, sexual addictions, etc.
  • Unforgiveness and bitterness: Bitterness and unforgiveness are some of the things Jesus spoke about. God would prefer you sort out your differences before giving an offering to him. When we hold grudges against another person, we are caging ourselves; therefore, we cannot evolve. Unforgiveness and bitterness can lead to more sins which are frowned upon by God.

Impacts of Strongholds on Your Spiritual Journey

Negative strongholds harm our physical and spiritual journey. Some of these impacts can be long-term or short-term depending on their severity. Some of the impact of negative strongholds includes;

  • Stagnancy: Strongholds can cause stagnancy in an individual’s journey.
  • Inability to grow and have a smooth relationship with God. 
  • It can hinder our ability to experience God’s abundant blessings and prosperity.
  • Strongholds create a barrier between us and God thereby preventing us from experiencing God’s transformation and power.
  • Stronghold can lead to feelings of doubt.
  • It can hinder connections and our ability to love others

How to identify and pull down strongholds

The first step to breaking down strongholds is to first identify them because we can only break down strongholds when we identify them. Some strongholds often operate in our subconscious which makes it difficult to discover but I believe with resilience and determination nothing is impossible.

Some ways to identify strongholds include; thorough self-reflection, praying, seeking opinions of others or wise counsel. We must be honest with ourselves and follow God’s guidance for us to identify these strongholds. Once we have identified this stronghold, it is then easy for us to pull them down by God’s grace. Breaking strongholds requires intentional actions; it is a battle that we must give our all. 

Steps to Breaking Strongholds

  1. Acknowledge and confess: The first step to breaking strongholds is to acknowledge there is a limitation and confess it to God. It is important to confess to God what you think the strongholds are and be honest with your struggles and inability to overcome the battle yourself.
  2. Let the word of God be your guide: allowing yourself to be transformed by the word of God is very important. The word of God can point you in the right direction and help you make better decisions. Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts guided by the word of God.
  3. Accountability and support: Surround yourself with believers who understand your plight and are willing to provide support and hold you accountable. 
  4. Prayer and fasting: The power of prayer should never be underestimated. Prayer helps us to communicate our thoughts to God and it is a gateway for God to communicate with us. When we pray in line with the word of God, God hears us and he grants our hearts desires. Fasting on the other hand helps to keep our body in subjection and it helps to keep us connected and surrendered to God. 
  5. Practice spiritual discipline: spiritual discipline helps us to walk in line with the words and the dictates of the scripture. When we walk and live according to the will of God for our lives, the enemy will find it difficult to build a stronghold around our lives and previous strongholds will be demolished.

Bible verses about strongholds

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV) – “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
  • Psalm 27:1 (ESV) – “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
  • Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) – “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
  • Nahum 1:7 (ESV) – “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”
  • Psalm 91:2 (NIV) – “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”
  • Psalm 144:2 (ESV) – “He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”
  • 2 Samuel 22:2 (NIV) – “He said: ‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.'”
  • Proverbs 21:22 (ESV) – “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.”
  • Psalm 62:7 (NIV) – “My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”
  • Psalm 9:9 (ESV) – “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
  • Psalm 18:2 (ESV) – “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
  • Psalm 28:8 (NIV) – “The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.”
  • Psalm 62:2 (ESV) – “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
  • Psalm 59:16 (NIV) – “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
  • Psalm 46:1 (NIV) – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
  • Psalm 31:3 (ESV) – “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.”
  • Psalm 91:4 (NIV) – “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
  • 2 Samuel 22:3 (ESV) – “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.”
  • Isaiah 33:16 (NIV) – “he will dwell on the heights, his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.”
  • Psalm 18:46 (ESV) – “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.”
  • Psalm 52:7 (ESV) – “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
  • Isaiah 17:10 (NIV) – “You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines.”
  • Psalm 31:4 (ESV) – “you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”
  • Psalm 61:3 (NIV) – “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.”
  • Psalm 59:9 (ESV) – “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.”
  • Psalm 71:3 (ESV) – “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.”
  • Psalm 94:22 (ESV) – “But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.”

Most of the bible verses highlight that God is our stronghold, our refuge and fortress. He is a source of protection whenever we face any spiritual warfare.

Final Thoughts

10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having [a]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [b]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] [c]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

18 With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all [d]God’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

How to overcome and pulldown stronghold
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We have established that strongholds are a barrier to our success and connection to God but I must say that; before you pray against any stronghold; make sure you are not the one who put that stronghold in your life. I believe we can experience true freedom and live victoriously if we constantly live a life of humility and submission to God. 

Many times when we pray against the stronghold of the enemy in our life, we only need to look deep and search our hearts to understand what the devil is holding as an excuse to punish and keep us grounded. Once we realise this loophole, confess our sin and ask for God’s help, we are free from bondage.

Finally, the meaning of stronghold in the bible has shown that God should be our ultimate stronghold. We should allow his words and his will to form our thoughts, ways, and overall character. 

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